Striped Mullet (Mugil cephalus) - Native

Striped mullet.

Striped mullet are summer visitors along the Connecticut shoreline and in tidal rivers. John E. Randall photo.

Identification. 3 spines and 8 rays in the anal fin. Few or no scales extending onto the bases of the soft dorsal and anal fins. 6-7 pale horizontal stripes on sides. Short pectoral fins situated high on the body. Greenish on the back to silvery on the sides and white on the belly. Juveniles look like silversides, but have fewer anal rays, and the anal fin origin is directly under that of the dorsal fin.

Striped mullet among vegetation.

Mullet fill a unique ecological niche because they are filter feeders of bottom muck and detritus. David Scott SREL photo.

Size. Commonly 16 to 22 inches. Max. reported size 47 inches.

Distribution. Worldwide distribution in tropical and temperate marine waters. Found from Nova Scotia south to Brazil in the Western Atlantic. Typically a more southern fish, striped mullet are most common in Connecticut estuaries and coastal streams during the summer.

Striped mullet distribution map.

All maps created in 2009. See CT DEEP Fish Community Data for updated distributions.

Habits. Typically travel in large schools near the surface, often in shallow water. Prefer inshore marine waters, but will sometimes travel long distances up freshwater rivers and streams. Striped mullet spawn offshore in large aggregations during winter. They fill a unique ecological niche because they are filter feeders of bottom muck and detritus. For this reason, they are taken only accidentally by angling. In areas where they are more abundant, they are often captured with cast nets.

Comments. Striped mullet support important commercial fisheries in Southern states. Smaller fish are sold as bait. Adults are prized both as a food fish and for their roe (eggs). Mullet are also important forage for large predators, such as sharks and dolphins. For unclear reasons, mullet often leap far out of the water.


Text and images adapted from Jacobs, R. P., O'Donnell, E. B., and Connecticut DEEP. (2009). A Pictorial Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut. Hartford, CT. Available for purchase at the DEEP Store.